Tigers' Gardenhire OK with tough love but wants message kept in-house

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – Tigers bench coach Steve Liddle walked past reporters before the game Sunday and jokingly said, “You guys are the only ones talking to me today.”

Well, he was sort of joking. Liddle, who managed the Tigers after Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the sixth inning Saturday night, made some very pointed comments about the club’s performance following the 4-2 loss to the Indians.  

Steve Liddle

Especially galling was allowing Indians Leonys Martin to steal home against right-hander Victor Alcantara in the eighth inning, after the Tigers had cut the deficit to 3-2. Liddle called it “inexcusable,” and a “little league play,” and he said it exposed the overall youth and inexperience of most of the Tigers players.

"The general idea is you don't want to keep repeating the same things over and over," Liddle said. "How many times do you have to tell a guy? Well the answer is, one more time until somebody from above (front office) says that's enough and we move on and move forward.

"Hopefully, they'll get it. It's still a learning experience for these guys."

Gardenhire didn’t disagree with what Liddle said, he just didn’t like that it was delivered publicly.

“He’s got to do what he’s got to do, but not in the newspaper,” Gardenhire said. “That’s not the route you go there. I don’t like to go through the newspaper to get at a player. It’s a better conversation to have with the player than through you guys.

“I don’t like to use you guys as an outlet.”

Gardenhire has been very careful not to criticize players publicly until he’s delivered that message to the player first. But he admitted, that can be difficult to do, especially immediately after a frustrating loss. He’s probably got stitches in his tongue from biting it so hard.

But with a young team, a team that is 3-10 this month and 2-15 in its last 17 home games, the overriding mission is to teach, develop and maintain some positivity.

“Nobody is more frustrated than those guys, I promise you,” Gardenhire said. “It’s an on-going process here and we just have to keep the attitude up. It’s got to be as positive as we can make it. Yeah, sometimes you’ve got to jump on them. Believe me, we do that, too.

“You just don’t hear about it.”  

Miggy back at first

The schedule is breaking just right and the Tigers will get a chance to give Miguel Cabrera a start at first base on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

Gardenhire gave Cabrera the day off Sunday, and with a scheduled off-day Monday, Cabrera will have two days to rest the knee before playing first base Tuesday, then two days off after to rest it.

“We have time to give him a break off his legs,” Gardenhire said. “And this gives us a chance to get his bat in the lineup in Pittsburgh, where there is no DH.”

Cabrera, who has chronic pain in his right knee and is relegated to full-time designated hitter duty, hasn’t played first base since May 31.

Detroit Tigers center fielder Harold Castro catches a fly ball by the Cleveland Indians' Jose Ramirez during the third inning.

What a catch!

Harold Castro has played mostly infield in his time with the Tigers, but he’s played outfield, specifically center field, in winter ball in Venezuela and through the Tigers’ minor-league system. Still, the play he made Saturday night against Jose Ramirez far exceeded his limited experience out there.

“Oh, I’ve seen the video – so many times,” Castro said with a smile before the game Sunday.

With two on and two out in the third inning, Ramirez blasted a fastball to the track in dead center field. Castro turned his back to the infield immediately, ran essentially an S-route to the track and, while looking over the wrong shoulder, reached up and somehow made the catch.

“He hit it good,” Castro said. “I was running real hard to where I thought the ball would be. And it was right there. I started running and I looked back over my left side but then it was over on my right. Pretty hard.”

The ball, according to Statcast, traveled 408 feet and had a hit probability of 85 percent.

“I always work hard out there because I like to play outfield, too,” Castro said. “It’s my role here, utility, so I have been working very hard. I am just trying to do my best wherever they put me.”

Dirty play

Gardenhire put an exclamation point on his ejection Saturday night by kicking dirt on home plate. Problem was, Indians Oscar Mercado was standing right in his path.

"I kicked dirt and I looked up and he was standing there smiling at me," Gardenhire said. "I just said, 'Sorry, brother.'"

Mercado, clearly amused by the whole thing, gave him a thumbs-up. 

Twitter @cmccosky